Monday, February 29, 2016

Using creative ways to help Nixon navigate social settings

   I can't speak for other parents of children with ASD, but in my own daily life with Nixon social situations are tough. He's not good at respecting personal space. He's a very affectionate kid but that's not always appropriate for school.

    Nixon has developed a friendship with another classmate. Nixon tells us that A is his " friends forever". It's a touching milestone because, until A, he just parallel played with classmates. With A, Nixon has learned to play WITH another child. They've even created a game to play together during recess.
   But with this new friendship comes issues of another kind. Nixon doesn't like sharing A with other classmates. He can sometimes become quite a pill when A plays with other children, even if Nixon is included in the group.
   Nixon's also been having trouble keeping his hands to himself in school.

   And that is where I come in with another creative way to help him navigate life.
   Nixon loves bubbles. I relied on this love to help explain personal space. I had him make a half-circle with his arms, from the side of his body to right out in front of his chest. I told him that was his "personal bubble". I went on to explain that everyone has a bubble around them. Sometime, a friend will invite into their bubble (for hugs/high-fives/kisses, etc.) and that's okay. But if you aren't invited into a friend's bubble and you go into it anyways, you'll pop that friend's bubble and your own. I asked Nixon, "How do you feel when the bubbles we blow outside pop?". Nixon said "it makes me very sad". I told him that's sometimes how friends feel when we invade their personal space.
    Every day before school I remind Nixon "don't be a bubble popper". He laughs and tells me he'll try his best. That's all I ever ask,

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"What's going on with my head? I can't stop thinking about..."

   Here we are, halfway through Nixon's school year. His second report card just came home Friday and, for the most part, he improved or stayed the same across the board. Except reading. He slipped in reading, going from at grade level, to below grade level. We'll be addressing that at home with more reading.

    As any parent knows, life with children is full of struggles. We as parents struggle and our children struggle. But parents of a child with special needs my struggles seem to be two-fold.
    I watch Nixon struggle with social interactions. I've seen him overwhelmed by something as small as a neighbor's dog approaching him. Nixon knows this dog, and in the past has pet and enjoyed this dog's affection, but still gets overwhelmed and freezes in place when the dog simply brushed his side. The issue isn't the dog, but rather the unexpected contact with the dog. It happened so fast, Nixon couldn't process the interaction and continue walking. It hurts to see him so overwhelmed because he thinks he's the problem, when in reality it's just an unfortunately timed series of events that led to his actions, or lack thereof. Thankfully most of our neighbors are kind and understanding of Nixon and dogs, and in situations like this they call their dogs over and Nixon unfreezes and goes into the house without further incidents. And he almost always gushes about how much the dog loves him and how much he loves the dog!

    Nixon struggles with focusing on a task. He'll ask to get on the computer or use his tablet, which with time limits he's allowed daily. The struggle comes when I ask him to wait, patiently, for a few minutes. Sometimes I'm in the middle of something and need to complete it first, other times I ask him to wait simply to work on his patience. (He struggles with it in school as well, and often times causes a disruption when he can't do his desired task right away.) He is improving. A few months ago, asking him to wait would have resulted in a full-on meltdown. Now, when asked to wait, he pouts mostly. Sometimes he will throw a fit but he goes to his room to calm down before it gets any worse.
    He also has a new phrase that he'll repeat endlessly while waiting. "I'm trying so hard but my brain just won't stop thinking about (computer time/tablet time)." He will grab his hair and pull his hair as he says this too. I try to always take time and acknowledge his effort when he vocalizes his mental discomfort.

    I can't end this post on a down note. Nixon has developed his first peer friendship! He's got his first BFF! He is so excited about this friendship and we are as well. Nixon even asked if he could get his BFF a Valentine's Day gift. We bought classroom gifts and Nixon will be able to address the gift bag for his friend, in his own handwriting, which seemed to appease him.
    This friendship is a huge milestone for Nixon. At his preschool and in Kindergarten, he simple played around other children. This year, he's actively playing WITH a child and sometimes even a group of classmates. Nixon and his bff even invented a Time Travel game of tag they play together at recess!